The Art of Facilitation

Dale Hunter with contributers Stephen Thorpe, Hamish Brown and Anne Bailey, Jossey-Bass, 2009, 352 pp., $40 (second edition, book).

If you have ever been asked to lead a meeting or create group synergy, you know facilitating is not an easy job. Even if you are not the designated meeting facilitator, knowing and using proper facilitation tools will improve output and generally make for a better meeting.

This second edition is written for the professional facilitator, but it also contains information anyone can use to guide a group to consensus. It covers the facilitation process from theory to implementation and discusses every aspect and situation in between.

The coverage is divided into three parts: facilitation as a process, concerning factors surrounding facilitation and the training program. The last section will be of the greatest practical use for most readers. It contains suggestions, exercises and designs useful for achieving differing meeting goals. Various techniques used during facilitation are broken down and illustrated, and tips on how and when to implement them are given. There are extensive notes, reference sections and a good index to help find specific topics.

Most of us will not become adept at facilitation very quickly—it requires much practice. There is a lot to learn in guiding a group to a decision without inserting our own influences. Reading this book helps improve those skills. The authors have done an excellent job in identifying the basics and mechanics of the facilitation process. This is a thorough book and is not for someone looking for a quick fix.

Marc A. Feldman
Solvay Chemicals

Do It Right the Second Time

Peter Merrill, ASQ Quality Press, 2009, 400 pp., $26 member, $44 list (book).

Merrill brings great insight to quality management essentials. This book is a great resource, benchmarking best practices in quality for organizational cultural change. He states that this work is easy in the beginning but continuing it is hard, and that the quality change process is a long-term continuous improvement process.

Merrill recognizes quality as a dynamic state with products, services, people, processes and environments meeting or exceeding expectations. His perspective for total quality is an approach to doing business that attempts to maximize the competitiveness of an organization through continual improvements.

The book discusses the following key elements: customer focus, obsession with quality, scientific approach, long-term commitment, teamwork, education and training, freedom through control, unity of purpose and employee involvement. Readers will learn that for their companies to succeed and sustain in a global marketplace, they must manage budgets and lead people.

I recommend this book to professionals, academics and business people who have charters and responsibilities dealing with quality, cultural change, business growth and organizational development.

John Lanczycki
Creative Planners
West Springfield, MA

ISO 9001 Survival Software Templates

Doug and Carole Anton, AEM Consulting Group, 2009, 115 pp., $495 (CD-ROM and book).

This booklet, CD-ROM, and workbook ensemble contain the required procedures and templates needed for ISO 9001:2008 compliance. Specifically, it contains an agenda, management review, timeline template, implementation planning forms, supplier ratings, customer satisfaction reviews, training plan, quality record forms and internal auditing checklists. For a company considering ISO 9001:2008 compliance, these materials provide the tools needed to facilitate easy implementation.

The difficulties a novice ISO implementer will experience are two-fold. First, there’s a steep learning curve when it comes to familiarizing yourself with ISO 9001:2008 compliance. Second, there’s a way to document the procedures so they satisfy the registrar’s rigorous examination process.

Most organizations hire a consultant to assist with these formidable barriers; however, full-service consulting costs a lot and might not be a viable option for small companies. This set of templates and CD-ROM provided will aid facilitation and can be customized to individual organizations.

With this book, implementers can save time during the planning part of deciding which process needs to be documented and how, and instead can concentrate efforts on aspects and procedures directly related to the organization’s operations. I recommend this survival guide to companies familiar with the ISO 9001:2008 process that want to save time by using these customizable templates.

Shin Ta Liu
Lynx Systems
San Diego

How to Implement Lean Manufacturing

Lonnie Wilson, McGraw Hill, 2009, 336 pp., $49.95 (book).

This book is written from a consultant’s perspective, meaning it offers a great deal of practical advice and examples, and is geared toward making progress. From an engineering standpoint, the book provides readers with a how-to approach that shows the applications of principles to implement lean systems.

After a few introductory chapters, Wilson explains each of the main lean manufacturing concepts, such as variability, lead time, cultural changes and constraint management. A handful of chapters deal with methods, such as explaining the strategies to becoming lean, the planning stage and the ways to sustain gains. The book also includes detailed stories and case studies, which help readers easily apply these lean concepts to their own companies. Finally, Wilson includes a chapter with a series of lean assessments used in guiding new lean initiatives.

The main strength of the book is that lean concepts are explained clearly, briefly and in an easy-to-read style. Chapters are structured with a clear question and points of clarity. Moreover, principles and applications are presented as simply as possible. The book’s main weakness is that new figures, diagrams and photos would have made the explanations even clearer.

Overall, this book serves as a practical, hands-on guide to lean manufacturing, and I recommend it to practitioners and managers who want to launch a lean initiative.

Martín Tanco
Tecnun (University of Navarra)
San Sebastian, Spain

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